NUJ, RATTAWU shut down Bayelsa FM radio station over industrial dispute
The crisis currently rocking the Bayelsa State owned Radio and Television station took a worrying dimension as the Radio chapel of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Radio Television and Theatre Arts Workers Unions (RATTAWU) have shut down the radio station over lingering labour dispute.
Shortly after the station went off air, the management mobilized armed securitymen and few employees who rebuffed the strike to reopen the station, playing only music all through since the station’s scheduled programmes and news bulletin could not be aired.
Workers in the radio station withdrew their services following the reported arrest of the Accountant of the station by Policemen from the Ekeki Division of the Police and the subsequent alleged whipping of some staff including union officials by youths said to be loyal to the new general manager.
The labour unions who said they were protesting incessant arrest of its members and accused the General Manager of the station, Mr John Idumange of double standards.
They maintained that there were procedures within the civil service to discipline erring staff rather than resorting to police arrest and intimidation.
In a statement signed by Tonye Yemoleigha and Pius Otiti, Chairmen of NUJ and RATTAWU respectively, the unions urged Idumange to immediately withdraw the employment letters recently issued to some persons in the station.
They said that there was no justification for employment when the General Manager who was appointed on December 6, 2016 had said that the station was over staffed and subsequently redeployed competent staff from the FM station.
The unions insisted that Idumange cannot be employing anyone after he recently redeployed some of the finest hands in the broadcast outfit. They noted that despite the availability of funds, the 350KVA generator acquired for smooth operations has remained unserviceable since December 2016.
“Another worrisome dimension to us as unions is the redeployment of eight out of 10 plant engineers from the station to other parastatals, leaving only two persons to man the plant.
“This means they will not run shift nor observe off days in an environment where radiation is very high practically ‘killing’ workers daily,” the unions said.
The Unions, the statement further said are not opposed to staff redeployment, but insisted that the unions should also be part of the process to ensure that the best of hands were not sacrificed on the altar of nepotism, sentiment or witch-hunt.
“We are also aware of the alleged over N5 million payroll fraud which Idumange claims to have uncovered and has referred to the Police for investigation.
“Ordinarily, in line with established procedures, an Investigative Panel should have been instituted to look into the matter and come up with a report with which management would act as appropriate.
“All these are expressly spelt out in the public service rules; however, we are requesting for a copy of the police report after their investigation.
“We have asked management to properly discipline everyone involved in an established case of running salary of a staff who resigned with effect from August 2016,” the joint statement said.